Did you grow up thinking Mom and Dad were Superwoman and Superman, incarnate? Whether it was their educational achievements, business success, work ethic or general know-how – they were the epitome, the “gold standard”, if you will, of what it meant to be (fill in the blank). Maybe you still feel that way about them or maybe you don’t but, if you are anything like me, this grandiose image that they constructed – backfired. This is not to say that I do not think the world of my parents nor is it to say that I don’t appreciate, that through insurmountable odds, they were able to succeed and thrive – its just that growing up the way I did was a little overwhelming…I’ll explain.
I am all sure we had the lecture, “When I was your age, I had to walk 10 miles in the snow and sleet to do (insert standard 1960’s hardship)!” How is this truly relatable to a Southern California kid? There will never be snow and why would I have any reason to walk 10 miles – anywhere? But I think what was truly difficult for me was seeing my parents as infallible beings and knowing that I could never amount to their level of piety. My Parents never made a mistake, that I know of, and they always succeeded at everything they did, as far as I was concerned. Even when times were tough and not ideal, their perseverance was a thing of beauty. So what’s a kid to do? I suppose some of you probably took these experiences and used them as inspiration or even yet, as challenges to rise to the level of the examples set before you. But, if you are like me, you quickly realized that achieving this standard was next to impossible and left you probably thinking, “what’s wrong with me?” (insert sad face here)
What I now know to be true, is that to a certain extent, it was all a façade. My Parents were not perfect – far from it. Their triumph over adversity was a result of trial and error, sprinkled with a little bit of luck and a boat load of divine intervention. Their successes in education and in life were the result of relentless hard work and hard knocks – in other words, they are humans. But as a kid, they hid this from me – not intentionally. I truly believe they thought they were being examples of what success looked like but the consequences of their actions left me feeling like the kind of life they led was unattainable. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were very supportive and encouraged me to live to my fullest potential, but when the bar is set so high it has to be seen by a telescope – well, there could be problems.
Flashforward to present day – I totally get it. If you have read any of my other posts you are well aware of my thoughts and opinions about being that “gold standard” for your children. We want our children to look at us and see us as role models and we want them to emulate us – not in any narcissistic way mind you (or at least it shouldn’t be) but we want our children to be the beneficiaries of the lives we have led, the struggles we have overcome and the success we have achieved. But, I am also mindful of the “humanity” within our behavior. Our children need to also understand that we as Parents can falter, we can and do make mistakes, we are not perfect, WE FAIL – sometimes. But perhaps, even more important than all of that, is teaching our children how to overcome the challenging times that they will inevitably face, by witnessing how we as Parents deal with them.
I recently had the opportunity to attend an intense immersion and exam preparation course that was preparing me to take an internationally recognized Professional certification exam. For the purpose of this course, I had to spend about a week away from home, which undoubtedly took a toll on the whole family. During this intense course, my communication with my family was limited and at its conclusion, I was just exhausted. But, it was important for me to explain, in the best way that I could to a 4 year old, that Papi was working really hard and had to sacrifice some quality time in order to prepare for a test. So when test time came along and it was time to use all that hard work and sacrifice – and leave it all on the dance floor – I came up short and did not pass the test! I was personally devastated. I felt like it was all for not. But wouldn’t you know it, when I got home from the testing location, I too fell in to the same pattern of “masking” my failure and behaving like nothing was different – which is probably the same thing my Parents did. Although I have a plan to do more studying and retake the exam, I completely ignored the part about being her example of how to address the eventual and inevitable shortcomings in life. Although she might be too young to understand, its never too late to make this correlation between success and failure and what should be done in both scenarios.
Turning the tables a little bit on you, especially those of you with older children. How have you dealt with your shortcomings as a Parent and how do you explain it to your children when you fail?